I have been thinking a lot lately about beauty. Of course, beauty is a little bit relative. But, a lot of things that cause us joy and give us pleasure come from things that are ugly or things that are hard. I grew up in Chicago, and while snow is beautiful, winters in Chicago were and are difficult. Usually by the time March rolls around, everyone is ready for the beauty and the pleasure of spring.
My husband renovates houses. I have seen him take houses that honestly should not even be standing and turn them into something unique and beautiful. He finds much joy and satisfaction from taking something ugly and making it into a work of art.
Of course the example we hear the most on this topic is a potter who takes a lump of clay and turns it into a beautiful vase. A potter friend of mine made us dishes and mugs that we proudly display in our glass cabinets. Drinking my morning coffee from those mugs brings me joy. It’s hard to imagine that my favorite mug started from a lump of clay.
The example I have been thinking about the most is a woman giving birth. I can speak from experience that labor and delivery is an ugly and painful time in a woman’s life. I was not physically beautiful while giving birth, and I was obviously in more pain than I have ever experienced. When it came time to push, there were moments I truly didn’t know if I could keep pushing. How could something beautiful come from this ugly, painful experience? But something beautiful did come. My beautiful baby, who I nurtured with my own body for 9 months, who I created with my husband was making his way through the ugly birth canal, getting ready to take his first breath of life.
John 16:21 says:
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world (NKJV).
Now, I can’t say that I forgot the anguish immediately. Pretty sure I was in a complete state of shock. And my first words to my firstborn may or may not have been:
“Logan, you will be an only child.”
Oops. Sorry buddy!
BUT. The beauty of that moment can never be taken away from me. I can still remember how he felt being placed on my chest. I can remember the pain being completely erased the second Logan slipped into this world. Talk about beauty from something ugly.
Some of us are going through very ugly circumstances. What is going on right now in Iraq is ugly. It is devastating. And there does not seem like there could be an ounce of beauty that can come from it. But there are two verses that bookend verse 21. The whole passage reads:
20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
With this blog, I seek to pursue joy. But, someday, I won’t have to pursue it any longer. It will be mine, and no one will be able to take it away!
Some of my all-time favorite verses are Philippians 2:9-11,
9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (NKJV).
Sometimes, in the middle of all that is so ugly in this world, I want to shout these verses. There is evil, there is pain, there is ugliness. But it is temporary.
And oh so soon. The whole world will kneel before the One who is and always was in control. The One who was never surprised. My heart can almost burst with excitement for this day. I want to know why! Why the pain? Why the ugly? Where is the beauty? I hate being patient; I have never been good at it. But, there will come a day when the world will finally be united and it will all finally make sense. There will be no more persecution. God’s enemies will bow the knee at His feet! Is there anything more exciting? My heart is full of joy at that thought!
Until that day, let’s pray for joy in the midst of hard circumstances. Let’s pray for peace for our hearts filled with worries and fears. Let’s pray for those being persecuted for the sake of Christ. And let’s even pray for our enemies.
A moment of beauty after all the pain.